Could Orlando Make Frank Ocean an Activist?

frank ocean

Anxious fans have been waiting for Frank Ocean's forthcoming album ever since an announcement that it would be released in July 2015. It was a welcome surprise to many who woke up this morning to see a message from Ocean, who does not have an Instagram or Twitter, so his Tumblr is the only way fans can connect with the singer. 

The out singer took to Tumblr Tuesday and delivered a passionate and lyrical message of support for his LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando shootings.

"I read in the paper that my brothers are being thrown from rooftops blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs for violating sharia law," he wrote. "I heard the crowds stone these fallen men if they move after they hit the ground. I heard it’s in the name of God. I heard my pastor speak for God too, quoting scripture from his book. Words like abomination popped off my skin like hot grease as he went on to describe a lake of fire that God wanted me in."

"I heard on the news that the aftermath of a hate crime left piles of bodies on a dance floor this month," wrote the Channel Orange singer. "I heard the gunman feigned dead among all the people he killed. I heard the news say he was one of us."

When Ocean came out in 2012 about his love affair with a man, he did not choose a label such as gay or bisexual. But today he included himself with the "us" and "we" of the LGBT community that was targeted by the shooter in Orlando. Ocean got personal and described the first time he heard the word "faggot." 

"I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a faggot as he dragged me out a neighborhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty," wrote Ocean. "That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t."

"Many hate us and wish we didn’t exist," he wrote. "Many are annoyed by our wanting to be married like everyone else or use the correct restroom like everyone else. Many don’t see anything wrong with passing down the same old values that send thousands of kids into suicidal depression each year."

When Ocean came out in 2012, critics predicted he would shatter the glass ceiling for LGBT artists in hip-hop. When The Advocate ran a cover story on him that year, the cover read, "Has Frank Ocean Changed Hip-Hop Forever?" The hope was that his revelation would create a more inclusive atmosphere, even though Ocean is not exactly a hip-hop artist. He is a member of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, but he is an R&B artist, more than anything.

At the time, big names in pop and hip hop such as Russell Simmons, Solange Knowles, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé all sent out messages of support for Ocean. A number of queer rappers have gained notoriety in hip-hop, such as Le1f, Shamir, Mykki Blanco, Angel Haze, and Big Freedia, but those artists have yet to truly reach the mainstream. There's still a lot of change left to be made.

On June 14, after the Orlando massacre, rapper Kid Cudi tweeted about how the hip-hop community needed to do more to support the LGBT community after the Pulse shooting. “The hip hop community is the least outspoken about gay rights and Ima go out my way to change that,” tweeted Cudi. He told his followers, “If you are an insecure homophobe and have a issue with gays and equality, unfollow me now. thank you." Rapper Ty Dolla Sign tweeted back at Kid Cudi in response, “What Cudi said.”

The question now is, will Ocean create music in response to Orlando? Could it mean he'll be more outspoken? It has clearly affected him, given the emotional response of the essay he published on his Tumblr.

When the iconic pop singer Prince died in April, Ocean took to Tumblr to express his gratitude for the artist. He wrote that Prince "made me feel comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity etc."

The Frank Ocean viewpoint was distinctive then, as it is now, and the music world (and the rest of us) would be better with more of it. Here's how Ocean beautifully ended his latest Tumblr post:

"So we say pride and we express love for who and what we are. Because who else will in earnest? I daydream on the idea that maybe all this barbarism and all these transgressions against ourselves is an equal and opposite reaction to something better happening in this world, some great swelling wave of openness and wakefulness out here. Reality by comparison looks grey, as in neither black nor white but also bleak. We are all God’s children, I heard. I left my siblings out of it and spoke with my maker directly and I think he sounds a lot like myself. If I being myself were more awesome at being detached from my own story in a way I being myself never could be. I wanna know what others hear, I’m scared to know but I wanna know what everyone hears when they talk to God. Do the insane hear the voice distorted? Do the indoctrinated hear another voice entirely?"

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